No one wants to go to an arbitration hearing. It’s a messy process that requires teams to divert time from other necessary tasks and go up against one of their own players, something that can irrevocably damage the relationship between player and team. The Rays were able to keep everything simple and stay away from the hearings, wrapping up their last two arbitration cases by agreeing to one-year deals with outfielder Matt Joyce and infielder Ryan Roberts. Joyce received 2.45 million dollars while Roberts received 2.95 million dollars with $50,000 more available in incentives. Attempting to predict what Joyce and Roberts would receive using comparable players, I wound up with numbers a bit above what they actually received, predicting 2.71 million dollars and 3.2 million dollars. Joyce’s deal with in line with the floor deal I thought Joyce would get, the $2,415,000 that Seth Smith received. I guess the lesson here is to never underestimate the Rays’ negotiating skills (and their 6-0 record in arbitration hearings). The Rays managed to get a big bargain for Joyce considering just how good he has been compared to his peers, and although he’s not as cheap as he was the past few years, his salary is still perfectly in line for a promising player entering his prime who has flashed star ability and could finally be ready to break out. In Roberts’ case, the Rays were able to get him for less than a million dollar raise from what he earned in 2012, which is a good deal for them, but the question is what type of role he will play for them next season. Just going by position, here is where the Rays stand for right now in terms of who will start where.
C: Jose Molina, One of Chris Gimenez, Jose Lobaton, and Robinson Chirinos
1B: James Loney against righties (Ben Zobrist against lefties?)
2B: Ryan Roberts
3B: Evan Longoria
SS: Yunel Escobar
LF: Matt Joyce
CF: Desmond Jennings
RF: Zobrist against right-handed pitching (Brandon Guyer against lefties?)
DH: We’re hoping that the Rays will sign someone. And soon. (I guess Sam Fuld would be in left field with Joyce DHing at the moment)
Looking at that, Roberts looks pretty safe, but if the Rays were to add a DH and Wil Myers becomes ready for the major leagues, Ben Zobrist would begin playing a lot of second base, and what would that mean for Roberts? The presence of Roberts, though, prevents the Rays from having to find a right-handed platoon partner for Loney in addition to a DH, and the bottom line is that if he hits, the Rays will find room for him even if Myers is in the major leagues. (Wow, too many players hitting! What a terrible problem that would be, especially for an offense-starved team like the Rays!)
It’s certainly a comfort to Rays fans to know that two players who will be receiving quite a few starts for their favorite team next season are officially under contract and the Rays can move on to their next orders of business, finding a DH and maybe another reliever. Both Joyce and Roberts did not quite live up to expectations in 2012- Joyce faded after an incredible start to the year while Roberts couldn’t follow up a breakout 2011- but both are talented players who will be right in the thick of what the Rays’ bid to return to the postseason. Today had to be a strenuous day for the Rays, all the players they negotiated with along with their agents, and even fans trying to keep track of the whole thing, but it’s finally over and Rays fans have a lot to look forward to as the Rays finish up their final preparations for what will be an exciting 2013 season.